Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 1 of 9). So I met Ishan a few years ago, at this welcome party for new hires from India that were going to join our firm’s headquarters in New York. Trust me when I say that he was the most arrogant little child I had ever seen. That day, Ishan had strolled in about an hour late — totally nonchalantly, I might add — and was introduced by our recruiter as someone to remember because he was going to be CEO one day. I took one look at him enjoying the attention of all the girls falling over him, and decided that the recruiter must be delusional. He looked exactly like all those last bench boys who got whatever they wanted, even though it was people like us who always worked twice as hard and only got half as much. Ishan caught me looking at him and winked. I rolled my eyes and walked away, but we kept catching each other’s eye through the rest of the evening. Stupid chemistry. As the night was winding down, he came over and asked for my phone number. I looked at him like he was insane. He rolled his eyes and said it was only so that he could register my number as spam, in the event that I ever texted him. I honestly could not imagine a single reason in the world that I would ever want to message that pompous little thing, but for some reason I gave him my number anyway. He promised that he would never text me. I scoffed and walked away. As soon as I reached home, I saw a text message from him. And then I was immediately annoyed at myself for how much it made me smile.

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 4 of 9). I think it was around 4 a.m. one night when I received an SOS from Apurvi. I had recently quit my banking job to start my own company so while 4 a.m. felt like a totally acceptable time to me, I knew it wasn’t for Apurvi. I ran to our bench in the park as quickly as I could. She was staring at the ground. I sat down next to her. “Am I marriage material, Ish?” she asked. I was very confused. “Well, you’re very irritating and dress loudly and are probably incapable of any housework; so I don’t think so,” I teased, trying to lighten the mood. Apurvi looked up at me, and I could see that she had been crying. “I’m being serious here. I’ve spent my whole life dedicated to my career and now I don’t know if I can give marriage the commitment it deserves because what if I have to choose between a family and my job? What if I’m not enough for him? What if he gets bored with me?” she asked. I had no idea about where this was going, but I knew she needed some support. “Well, if he asks you to make those choices, then he’s not the right guy for you. There’ll be days where you’ll be out for work and days where you’ll stay home for the kids but none of that should matter because those choices are yours to make. He just has to know that he’s the luckiest guy in the world because he gets to have your heart. And if he gets bored with you or you get bored with him, then you can always have your first affair after marriage with me,” I said. Apurvi punched me playfully, smiled, and rested her head on my shoulder. “Josh asked me to marry him,” she whispered. She craned her neck up to look at my reaction. For some reason, I felt like I had been punched, kicked, stabbed and slapped all at once. But I smiled through my unfathomable tears because in that moment, she needed me to be there for her more than I needed to figure out why I felt like a little bit of me was crumbling away #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 7 of 9). It was 4:30 a.m. the night before Apurvi’s wedding, and it looked like everyone had finally called it a night and gone to their rooms. Perfect for me to make my getaway. I tiptoed across the house, briefcase in hand. I had a few hours until the flight, but couldn’t risk being seen by any of Apurvi’s relatives. They would definitely try to stop me from leaving, and I couldn’t exactly explain why I didn’t want to stay. “Ishu?” I heard Apurvi’s mom call. I froze. Apurvi’s mother was walking towards me, garlands in hand. She was probably up on the ladder suspending them from the stage, which is why I hadn’t seen her. “Hi Aunty,” I said, sheepishly. “Are you going somewhere, beta?” she asked. That was my moment to escape. But for some reason, I couldn’t take it. “Not while my favorite still has work to do!” I said. She smiled at me. Both of us began working on the last part of the stage and recounting “the good old days”. As soon as we finished, I told her that I was leaving because there was a really important conference for me to go to in the US. “Important because of work or important because it’s your escape from watching Apurvi get married?” she asked. I smiled. She knew me well. “I won’t stop you today, because I know your pain. Especially since for whatever it’s worth, I always thought it would be you and Apurvi,” she said. I tried to blink back the tears and picked up my briefcase. “Doesn’t matter, Favorite! I’m sure Apurvi and Ishan will be very happy together,” I said, giving her a hug. “Josh,” she whispered, “Apurvi and Josh.” I turned around and walked out of there as quickly as I could, though I knew I’d left my heart behind #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 2 of 9). It was my 25th birthday. I was dating this American supermodel then, and she had planned this huge party in the city for me with hundreds of our friends. I was grateful for everything Layla had done for me of course — the lights, food, music, and guest list were all on point — but something was missing. I felt like I was there at the event, but was somehow invisible as everyone was lost in the party — almost as though the reason for celebration was forgotten in the glamour of the night. That’s when Apurvi walked up to me to give me my birthday present. I had noticed her standing around for most of the party, clearly out of place — I was so sure she would have rather been in the office, even if it were a Saturday night. She and I were friendly; but there wasn’t much beyond the occasional conversation about Bollywood and cricket, or the random dinner here and there. She wished me a very happy birthday, gave me a hug, and then left. I tried to go back to the party, but had this inexplicable sense of heartache and longing for something I didn’t even know I missed. I didn’t really eat anything or hang out with many people, but I don’t think anyone noticed. When we went home a few hours later and Layla was asleep, I started opening the presents. A few bottles of scotch, a pen here and there, some random suit accessories; and then Apurvi’s gift. I smiled as I read the tag on her gift — “a little something for my desi boy”. It was a box of home made Indian food and three of my favorite Bollywood movies. As I scarfed down my dal chawal and watched K3G for the zillionth time, I thought about home and what I would give to be in Delhi and eat Mom’s cooking again. That’s what had been missing. And here, Apurvi had brought me a little piece of home, when I didn’t even realize I needed it. None of the expensive gifts, or even the giant party, could compare to what her simple gift made me feel. I went to work the next day and thanked Apurvi for her thoughtful gift. And when I gave her a hug to say thank you, she somehow felt like home #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 5 of 9). The past few months had been a blur — I had literally worked day and night on my company — but that night, I will never forget. We had been working on a massive time sensitive dream project that could literally make or break our company, when one of my employees Avi came in to my office. He handed me an envelope and told me that it had arrived in the mail a few days ago. It was from Apurvi. I thought lack of sleep must have gotten to me, because I hadn’t spoken to her in almost a year. We had just naturally drifted apart because things had been incredibly busy for me with the company, and for her with her imminent wedding. Wedding. Of course! She must have sent the invitation. “Who is this Apurvi, Sir?” Avi asked. I honestly didn’t know how to answer that question. My best friend? The girl my parents once wanted me to marry? The most frustratingly fascinating person I had ever met? Possibly someone I was somehow still in love with? “Just a really great memory,” I said. Avi smiled and handed me another envelope. Flight tickets to India. By this time, the whole team had gathered around us. “From all of us, Sir, for you to chase your memories. We’ll take care of this dream until you’re back. Flight leaves in two hours. Go get her, Sir,” Avi said. I stared at the table with our unfinished project and the tickets in my hand. I had about five minutes to make my decision if I wanted to make it to the flight... #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 8 of 9). I ran off the aircraft, and straight towards Ishan’s office. Avi opened the door. “Apurvi Madam?” he asked. “Ishan?” I whispered, out of breath. “I thought he was at your wedding in India!” Avi said, confused. I shook my head, turned around, and ran out of there. He wasn’t at his favorite bar. Or at his sports club. Or at his house. Where could he be? I was exhausted. It had been a long flight and a longer wedding and it was late at night and all I wanted to do was to curl up and go to bed. I walked into Central Park to catch my breath. Instinctively, I walked to our bench. “A tad over dressed, aren’t we?” Ishan said. I scowled at him in the dark. He was way too chill for someone I had flown across the Atlantic for. “Well if you’d shown up on time for ONCE in your life, maybe I wouldn’t have had to take a flight halfway around the world in my wedding outfit,” I said angrily. Ishan looked away. “You know why I didn’t come to your wedding,” he said, clearly upset. “No, I don’t know why,” I said. I wasn’t going to let him off the hook this time. “Well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? You’re married to someone else, and there won’t be a day where that won’t be painful to remember,” Ishan said quietly. Weak, but he was getting there. “You really thought I could get married and celebrate the happiest day of my life without you by my side?” I prodded. “You don’t have to rub it in,” Ishan grumbled. What a sulk pot. “Well, the last I checked, I actually needed a groom to get married to. And the one I wanted had somehow ended up in America, on a random park bench instead of being at my wedding,” I teased. Ishan looked up at me, clearly confused but ecstatic and in love all at once. Both of us stared at each other in the soaking wet rain in a dinghy corner of Central Park, as though we were really seeing each other for the first time. Was this what the start of forever was supposed to look like? #LumLoves APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 8 of 9). I ran off the aircraft, and straight towards Ishan’s office. Avi opened the door. “Apurvi Madam?” he asked. “Ishan?” I whispered, out of breath. “I thought he was at your wedding in India!” Avi said, confused. I shook my head, turned around, and ran out of there. He wasn’t at his favorite bar. Or at his sports club. Or at his house. Where could he be? I was exhausted. It had been a long flight and a longer wedding and it was late at night and all I wanted to do was to curl up and go to bed. I walked into Central Park to catch my breath. Instinctively, I walked to our bench. “A tad over dressed, aren’t we?” Ishan said. I scowled at him in the dark. He was way too chill for someone I had flown across the Atlantic for. “Well if you’d shown up on time for ONCE in your life, maybe I wouldn’t have had to take a flight halfway around the world in my wedding outfit,” I said angrily. Ishan looked away. “You know why I didn’t come to your wedding,” he said, clearly upset. “No, I don’t know why,” I said. I wasn’t going to let him off the hook this time. “Well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? You’re married to someone else, and there won’t be a day where that won’t be painful to remember,” Ishan said quietly. Weak, but he was getting there. “You really thought I could get married and celebrate the happiest day of my life without you by my side?” I prodded. “You don’t have to rub it in,” Ishan grumbled. What a sulk pot. “Well, the last I checked, I actually needed a groom to get married to. And the one I wanted had somehow ended up in America, on a random park bench instead of being at my wedding,” I teased. Ishan looked up at me, clearly confused but ecstatic and in love all at once. Both of us stared at each other in the soaking wet rain in a dinghy corner of Central Park, as though we were really seeing each other for the first time. Was this what the start of forever was supposed to look like? #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 3 of 9). Ishan and I were on a business trip together. By that time, we’d become really, really good friends; though everyone around us was convinced that we were a lot more. I had just stormed into the living room of our suite, grabbed Ishan’s scotch from his hand, and was drowning it all in one go. Our client was being really annoying, and I had this weird feeling that for once maybe I wasn’t good enough to close this deal. Ishan quietly poured us some more alcohol and listened to me vent. After about twenty minutes, he was visibly frustrated. He interrupted my rant and asked - “How can you be the smartest person in most rooms but still be stupid enough to not see how absolutely maddeningly amazing you are? You know you’re going to be crucial to the client’s success, just like you’ve become crucial to my existence.” Ishan froze. And I really didn’t know how to react to that. He was dating some random woman he met at a club, and I was seeing this really sweet guy called Josh. Ishan and I stared at each other uncomfortably, after which he quickly said that he meant I was amazing at my job and crucial to his success in the company. I smiled hesitantly, and excused myself to go to bed. Enough playing with fire for one night. Just before I was about to walk into my room, Ishan called out my name. I turned, half scared and half excited. He hesitated for a second, and then said simply said good night. I smiled and went into my room, shutting the door behind me. For a second, I hesitated. Maybe I should have gone back out there and spoken to Ishan about what we actually meant to each other? Maybe there was something more than the friendship we were trying to convince ourselves was all we had? The friendship. Damn it. We would be risking it all if the conversation didn’t go well... but what if it did? I thought I heard footsteps towards my room, so I swung open the door... Just in time to see Ishan’s door close. Maybe we were just meant to be friends after all... #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 6 of 9). My wedding was pretty small by usual Indian standards — it was only a week long with two hundred guests; and all functions were scheduled to happen at my place. But it was still better than anything I had dreamt about. I couldn’t believe the number of people that had flown down to India from all over the world for our wedding — Josh’s family and friends, his whole department at his hospital, my whole team from work, and even Ishan. To be honest, Ishan was the biggest surprise of them all. We hadn’t spoken in almost a year, and from what I had heard, he had been really busy with some big project for his company. But there he was, despite it all. I still remember how one night, I had been sitting with Josh at our sangeet— a pre-wedding function where the bride and groom’s side put up singing and dancing performances— when I first saw Ishan. Running in late as usual, jeans hanging from his waist and briefcase in tow. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Within five minutes of his arrival, and before we could even meet, my family had swarmed him — I had forgotten how much they loved him. And within fifteen minutes of his arrival, he was somehow all changed into traditional Indian wear and was on the dance floor to challenge Josh’s side. He had dragged my complaining parents and little sister to the floor, and was forcing them to dance instead of sitting in a corner or stressing about the arrangements. That was honestly the first time I had seen my parents smile all week. Ishan caught my eye and winked at me. I looked at my family laughing around him, and smiled. Then, all of a sudden, I felt an arm slide around my waist. I looked up at Josh beaming down at me, and then at Ishan dancing away with my mother. Was I making a huge mistake? #LumLoves

Apurvi and Ishan

APURVI AND ISHAN (Part 9 of 9). I ran into the all-too-familiar hallway. Apurvi was going to kill me for being late. Again. The whispers around me were not discreet in the slightest, but I ignored them as I shuffled through the auditorium. Even though I had worked at the bank for years in what seemed like an earlier life; that day, people only recognized me as Apurvi’s guest — and I could not be prouder to be associated with her. Besides, my own personal identity had been effectively erased from the institution’s memory when I quit to work on my own startup. Which, by then, had grown into a multi-million dollar business. After shuffling around for ten minutes, I finally spotted my seat next to our darling Aryan, whose nanny had brought him in from kindergarten to see his mother speak. I ruffled his hair as I settled down next to him. He then made himself comfortable on my lap as we watched Apurvi take the stage. She was magnificent. The youngest — and first female — CEO of the firm. Unbelievable. At some point in her speech, she even thanked “her boys” for helping her get there and winked at me and Aryan. After her speech — and standing ovation and networking — she came over to give me a hug. Then she turned to Aryan and said it was time for him to go back to school. “Just thirty minutes more Mumma please,” Aryan begged. “No baby you can’t miss school like this no — “ Apurvi started. “Let him be, Apurvi,” I intervened. “He’s so spoilt thanks to you,” Apurvi said, narrowing her eyes at me before turning to Aryan, “How about I drop you back to school myself? We can get ice cream on the way!” “Okay Mumma,” Aryan said. “I’ll come with you,” a male voice announced from the side of the stage. “Okay Papa,” Aryan said, running to give Ayaan a hug. Apurvi looked at me guiltily as Ayaan came over, carrying Aryan. I shook my head at her and winked. Just like on the day she first met Ayaan and the day she married him, she didn’t owe me any explanation or sympathy. I suppose that somewhere, we both knew we worked better as just friends — she was just brave enough to accept it first. I watched Aryan swinging Apurvi and Ayaan’s hands as all three of them walked away into their blissful little forever. I couldn’t help but smile #LumLoves